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Opinion Article: Where FAMOUS (magazine) meets Journalism Ethics&Practices

According to its description on the Pacific Magazine’s site, FAMOUS is created with ‘today’s popular-culture obsessed, and shopping addicted, young females in mind’.

FAMOUS, a weekly celebrity news magazine, is well-known for its jaw-dropping  eye-catching covers, and its dedication towards the latest in fashion, shopping, beauty, and of course, celebrity gossip. It boasts the latest gossip on Hollywood’s new stars and fashion-style icons; celebrity hookups & breakups and BTS of movies, but most notably — it unmasks the closed doors of the ‘rich and famous’ lives of Hollywood.

Although I’m just an amateur media student who often indulges in magazines, I am absolutely appalled by FAMOUS and its magazine.

So it’s non-verbally and universally acknowledged that ‘soft-news’ have always been perceived to be ‘less credible’ and incomparable to ‘hard-news’ (since it’s not really classified as ‘news’, and its source of information and accountability lacks trustworthiness).

But nowadays, soft-news is treated as hard-news. Take the Tiger Woods’ scandal for instance, and the death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. It’s also a great incentive for news organisations to utilise ‘soft news’ as an accompaniment for their hard-news, often as a method to lure readers and viewers’ interests.

But because of this transformation of soft-news in contemporary society, consumers are ready to believe in ANYTHING that the so-called ‘media’ reports to its audience. And this is nothing but hoodwinking its readers, and deluding them with false information.

For instance, the TWILIGHT franchise is probably one of FAMOUS’s worst targeted victims:

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson officially dating? Kristen Stewart & Robert Pattinson broke up? Then they made up & later broke up? Love triangle between the Twilight trio? Taylor fights back? Pattinson – the manwhore? Twilight Sextape (…really???) Kristen Stewart…PREGNANT???

Well it’s understandable that the media is always milking in the latest so-called ‘gossip’ from Hollywood. FAMOUS is the epitome of cash-whores in the Australian magazine industry. Obviously, they’re attempting to rake in massive readership and circulation figures by utilising TWILIGHT to its full potential. But why undergo unethical and immoral practices?

As much as I enjoy reading the bizarre headlines that grace the covers of FAMOUS every week, it is obvious that FAMOUS is 95% trash. Well, duh, we know it’s as tabloid magazine and that it’s bound to be rubbish. But you see, I don’t think many of its readers can distinguish what’s real or fake.

Take the Twilight ‘sextape’ as an example. FAMOUS basically screenshotted the intimate kissing scene from the movie & said it was a sextape that happened when the cameras weren’t rolling.

So if we consider this issue in a generalised manner…

In terms of journalism ethics, where and when should tabloids NOT cross ‘the’ line?

Let’s attempt to make some qualifications for this argument.

So we know that celebrity gossip sites and tabloid magazines often creates, and fuels rumours. Oceanup.com and HollywoodGossip.com are two gossip sites that always fabricates and fuel random rumours based on random witnesses/sources and photos. Their stories however, are usually composed in a smaller-scale, and they always end the articles in open-ended manner.

FAMOUS, on the other hand, puts a spin on EVERYTHING, conjuring the whole article (on a massive grand-scale) out of thin air with specific information; random candids, ‘specific’ photographs and specific false quotes. At one point, they sunk so low to the point where they even used photo-shopped material in order to reinforce their article.

But of course, I applaud their diligent efforts and their engaging stories. However, it’s depressing to think that a staff of people would sit in their offices from 9am-5pm, and racking their brains to write tabloid-trash stories about celebrities.

But even if their magazine is ‘proving’ to be a ‘great success’ for the industry (financially, that is — since they’re  making a colossal profit off these ‘fabrications’)…

Don’t they have standards? Morals? Reputation? Integrity?

Not only as a journalist, but as a human? 

And what’s sad is that they know that the world knows that they’re a joke. YET, they still continue with such immoral practices.

Here’s the standard journalism Code of Ethics (AJA): 

Journalists describe society to itself. They seek truth.

They convey information, ideas and opinions, a privileged role.

They search, disclose, record, question, entertain, suggest and remember.

They inform citizens and animate democracy.

They give a practical form to freedom of expression.

They scrutinise power, but also exercise it, and should be accountable.

Accountability engenders trust. Without trust, journalists do not fulfil their public responsibilities.

As you can see, honesty clearly plays a vital part in journalistic practices.

However, we have to question whether or not tabloids are journalistic practices.

If we go back to FAMOUS’s mission…Obviously, it does not unmask the closed doors of the rich and famous lives of Hollywood. It’s more like using these people’s lives, have a mock-fest, and selling these victims’ reputations.

Why can’t it take the approach of a normal entertainment magazine? Take TV Week Australia, for instance. It offers the latest news, special sneak previews, and rumours around the set etc. Although its typical reader probably wouldn’t know whether or not TV Week has fabricated the facts, these type of soft-news magazines are at least, well, decent.

Yes, it does seem like I ‘m taking a specific stab at FAMOUS for its unethical practices. But of course I’m not being ignorant about the rest of the tabloid industry because I’m pretty sure that there’s plenty of other similar magazines like FAMOUS.

IT all comes down to the final conclusion in a generalised way…

Should these offences be forgiven and treated with lenience just because they’re soft-news?

Is it actually OK for ‘journalists’ to participate in such activities?

Is it right to manipulate their consumers and rip them off with their tabloid-trash?

Where on earth should the line be drawn?

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NOTE: All of the used FAMOUS covers were seen during 2009-2010 period.

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